6 Ways to Make Your Remodeling Project More Eco-Friendly

Is a remodeling project on your horizon? Whether you’re close to swinging a sledgehammer or just collecting ideas, you may be wondering if you can take steps to minimize the environmental impact of your project. 

The good news is that remodeling a home is nearly always a greener option than building one from scratch! Still, some remodeling decisions have a more positive impact than others. And perhaps the best news is that options that are better for the environment are often easier on the wallet, too. 

Here are six ways to approach your remodeling project that can help lighten your carbon footprint.

1. Select eco-friendly materials.

Manufacturers recognize that consumers increasingly prefer “green” products. That’s a good thing because it’s prompted many companies to develop innovative alternatives that are less harmful to the environment.

But it’s also easy to be “greenwashed” by misleading product claims or to overlook hidden factors. For example, bamboo is generally considered a sustainable, eco-friendly product. But does bamboo flooring still deserve an A+ if it’s produced in a facility powered by a coal-fired plant with no emission controls, then shipped thousands of miles?   

Questions like this aren’t quickly answered, so the best advice is to research thoroughly before buying! 

2. Reduce what goes into landfills.

Demolition is the first step in many remodeling projects. Flooring, cabinets, countertops, and fixtures may need to be removed to install new finishes. You may also need to remove drywall from the walls and ceiling so plumbers and electricians can reroute power and water lines.

Torn-out materials and other construction waste are typically collected onsite in a dumpster rented from a local waste management company. Some companies sort through the debris and selectively recycle valuable materials. For example, rebar steel framing is frequently recycled, but most carpeting is sent to landfills.

Limiting the scope of your project and repurposing what you already have can help minimize landfill waste. For example, one of the most common ways homeowners scale back (and keep more money in their pockets) is to paint cabinets instead of replacing them.

3. Donate reusable items.

Another way to reduce landfill waste is to donate gently used appliances, cabinets, and other building materials to local businesses and organizations that accept them. Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores is one of the biggest operators in this space. 

Other businesses specialize in reusing or recycling various wood products. To locate these resources, check out ReuseWood.org, an extensive directory of alternatives compiled by the American Wood Council, the Canadian Wood Council, and the Building Materials Reuse Association.

4. Attempt to secure materials from local sources.

You can also use the directory at ReuseWood.org to find places that sell wood products for your project, including barn wood, board lumber, wood doors, millwork, and more. Enter your location and select the distance you will travel to secure materials.

What about retrieving materials from tear-down sites or buying builders’ stockpiled leftovers at a discount? Pull together a list of what you’re looking for and contact local contractors. You might be surprised by their willingness to help you score some deals!   

5. Shop for room furnishings at thrift stores.

Before ordering new tables and lamps from online sites—products that must be manufactured and shipped long distances—see if you can find previously-owned gems at nearby resale shops or through local sellers on Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, Craigs List, etc. 

This may not be the fastest or most straightforward way to find furniture, lighting, artwork, and other home furnishings. Still, it’s incredibly satisfying when a unique and affordable gem falls into your lap.

6. Improve your home’s energy efficiency.

If your project involves removing drywall from exterior walls, consider using this opportunity to add more insulation while the studs are exposed. This is also an excellent time to pinpoint and plug any sources of air leaks around electrical outlets, window and door frames, or other locations.

When selecting appliances, try to think beyond purchase prices and include operating costs too. ENERGY STAR’s product finder can help you compare refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, and more.

Most of all, try to enjoy the process of remodeling your home! It takes considerable time and effort to research options and make good decisions. But the final result is worth it!